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Systemic autoimmune diseases (SAD) are a significant cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, creating a challenge for researchers and clinicians to find evidence-based solutions for SAD diagnostics, treatment and prevention. 

Due to the complexity of autoimmune disease research, which requires multidisciplinary approaches, a problem is insufficient research capacity at low-performing EU Member State research institutions. 

Research capacity, able to deliver precise and early diagnostic is of high importance to move towards the development of methods for personalized medicine and better understanding of triggers and mechanisms in autoimmunity, leading to better understanding of chronic diseases and comorbidities and searching for therapy options. 

VirA project will optimally address the challenges and strengthen the ERA (European Research Area) in autoimmunity.

The overall aim of the project is to promote autoimmune disease research capacity and fill networking gaps in the institution (RSU) of the low-performing Member State – Latvia, by establishing a consortium with leading research institutions from Italy - University of Ferrara, Germany - Ulm University, and Israel - Medical Research Infrastructure Development and Health Services Fund by the Sheba Medical Center. The partner universities are the excellence centres (world leaders) that are forerunners in the corresponding areas and are capable of inspiring positive change in the research field and significantly impact future development.

Specific objectives

SPECIFIC OBJECTIVE #1: Increased research excellence of the coordinating institution in the field of research as a result of the twinning exercise

Increase mobility of qualified scientists through knowledge exchange between leading research institutions in Latvia, Italy, Germany and Israel. Upgrade competences and raise the experience level of existing personnel in the topics of:

  • immunology, virology and morphology;
  • autoimmune disease research;
  • clinical data management and database analysis;
  • research paper preparation and proper high impact publication source selection in the corresponding research field;
  • science and organisation management by strengthening the cooperation between local and international research groups.
SPECIFIC OBJECTIVE #2 Enhance the reputation, attractiveness and networking channels of the coordinating institution

Increase the recognition and reputation of RSU brand in the international research community among prospective students and researchers. Better integration of RSU into European Research Area and international top-tier research projects will be ensured through participation and organisation of international conferences, seminars, workshops, networking, and other events. To reach the project's objectives, the results are planned to be disseminated through marketing materials, publications on national and regional media, as well as on social media. There is also estimated 6 scientific articles to be published in reviewed, internationally recognized, and databaselinked journals with impact factor above 5 within the specific research field. Effective and high-quality management and coordination of project activities, will be ensured through close cooperation with project stakeholders, e.g. External advisory board, European Commission, project partners, as well as through strategic media relations.

SPECIFIC OBJECTIVE #3: Enhance the scientific and technological capacity of the linked institutions with a principal focus on the university or research organisation from the Widening Country

Raise the research profile of RSU through the establishment of four platforms for multidisciplinary research (immunological, virology, morphology, clinical data management and modelling including bioinformatics) by contemporizing different RSU structures (MVI, Department of Infectology, Department of Internal Medicine, Laboratory of Electron microscopy of Institute of Anatomy and Anthropology). The establishment of the four platforms will be done in partnership with research institutions from Israel, Italy and Germany, adapting their expertise and good practice examples and focusing on autoimmune disease research (rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune thyroiditis and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).